Funchess getting chance to show he’s the No. 1

| 2 years ago
(AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth)

(AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth)

Funchess getting chance to show he’s the No. 1

On Thursday, ESPN NFL Nation Carolina Panthers reporter David Newton stopped by the Pro Football Focus show hosted by Mike Clay on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio (10 a.m. ET weekdays – Sirius 210 & XM 87). Newton talked about the aftermath of the Kelvin Benjamin injury, the workload in the Panthers’ backfield, and more. You can find Mason on [email protected]

Can Devin Funchess Replace Kelvin Benjamin?

The fallout from the Kelvin Benjamin season-ending injury has led many to believe that rookie second-round draft pick Devin Funchess can step into Benjamin’s 2014 role. The University of Michigan graduate is an inch smaller than Benjamin and also about twenty pounds lighter. Other than that, he projects as a similar prospect. Both players win with size on routes at all levels of the field. Can Funchess emerge as a rookie as the No. 1 target at wide receiever?

“Funchess is going to get a big chance to show he’s the No. 1. I think he’s the only player on this roster than can be a true No. 1 in the way Benjamin was last season. Same type body build as Benjamin. I think once he gets on the field and gets over this hamstring injury, he can a lot of the things Kelvin did.”

In 2014, Benjamin tied Demaryius Thomas for the league lead in end zone targets (23). When the Panthers got into the red zone, Newton looked Benjamin’s way early and often. Although Funchess brings a similar build to Benjamin, it’s not wise to expect him to replicate Benjamin’s success.

“Jerricho Cotchery is going to play a lot more slot this year with Devin wide. He could be used around the goal line. He had 10 touchdown catches out of the slot with the Steelers two years ago. They also like Ed Dickson by the goal line. The can put a lot of big bodies down there. Benjamin was great at drawing interference calls down there, and that played a role in all of those targets.”

Olsen Will Line Up All Over The Field

“I still think Greg Olsen will lead them in receptions for the third straight year. He’s looking as good or better than he did last year when he made the Pro Bowl for the first time. Look for them to use Olsen a lot of different ways. I was watching practice the other day. They started out with him wide right, then in the other slot position, then close to the line. They’re going to be really creative with how they get him involved in this offense.”

Olsen finished with the second-most snaps (1,091) of any tight end in the NFL in 2014. You can expect that number to repeat itself in 2015. Olsen also finished with 121 targets and 84 receptions. He dropped just two passes all season.

The Next WR Up?

“I think it will be by committee. It will start out with Corey Brown who will get the first chance there. Then it will be Ted Ginn. The one thing they have now that they didn’t have last year is a speed guy. When Brown started developing late in the season that opened up the middle of the field there. Ginn has that same capability. He opened up their offense back in 2013. This will give Olsen more opportunities over the middle.”

It sounds like the Panthers’ No. 2 wide receiver target will open the field up for Olsen and even Funchess on the underneath stuff, but you shouldn’t expect consistent production. Big plays could come for Brown, who is the next man up right now, and this makes him an acceptable target in the final round of best ball/MFL10 leagues.

The Jon Stewart Show

After Deangelo Williams was out of the picture due to injury, Jonathan Stewart finished the 2014 season on a tear. He also eclipsed 20 carries in three of the final four regular season games. Williams is in Pittsburgh now, and the Panthers added free agent Jordan Todman and draft pick Cameron Artis-Payne. Will Stewart be a workhorse like he was to close out 2014?

“I think it’s going to be like it was at the end of the season. Last four games he had the second-most rushing yards of any back. He showed that he can handle the load. They feel comfortable as long as he can stay healthy. Those ankle injuries that were an issue back in 2012 and 2013 appear to be corrected. He’s done different things with his offseason to try and get ready. I think they could spell him some with Cameron Artis-Payne, and Jordan Toddman has got some quickness out there. They’ll blend those guys in with Tolbert. Even without Deangelo Williams, I think they’re better off depth-wise than a year ago.”

What Happens If Stewart Gets Hurt?

“Artis-Payne woul be the lead back if Stewart got hurt. The guy had over1600 yards rushing last season as lead back in SEC. He’s got a little more quickness than people give him credit for.”

Based on Stewart’s injury history, Artis-Payne is one handcuff you definitely want to consider grabbing if you own J-Stew. Artis-Payne likely won’t have a big enough role to gain FLEX consideration otherwise.

Dan Schneier is a staff writer at PFF Fantasy and he covers the NFC East beat for FOX Sports. You can find him on [email protected] You can also add him to your network on Google+ to find all of his past material.

Dan Schneier is a staff writer for PFF Fantasy, a former FOX Sports NFL scribe, and an auction format enthusiast.

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